Android Trademark Lawsuit: Google, OHA Sued


When I first saw the news that Google was being sued for use of the Android name I dismissed it thinking another guy was trying to get rich for free. Afterall, Android is a word in the dictionary so unless someone is using the exact same name to promote an almost identical product/service, it seems difficult you could convince someone you “own” the name. But the details of this case are interesting to say the least.


Erich Sprecht is a software developer who has sued Google (along with 46 members of the OHA) for $100 million in damages for use of the Android name. He runs a small company called Android Data Corp. Not only does Sprech want money… but he wants Google and the OHA to stop using the name Android. Hopefully if they change the name we’ll be able to stick a ph before that, too. But worry not – although the details of the case look grim for Google I’m incredibly optimistic and I’ll tell you why. But first, the facts.

Erich Sprecht’s lawyers say:

“Basically, it’s a stolen name… It’s our trademark, and Google is using it as if it’s theirs.”

A Google spokesman believes the claims are without merit and says:

“[We] will defend vigourously against them”

Here is how Forbes explains the ordeal came about:

Google applied for its Android trademark in October 2007, just days before it publicly unveiled its Android plans. The PTO rejected the application in February 2008, citing similarity to Specht’s mark. Google quickly appealed the decision, arguing that Specht’s firm had lost its claim due to inactivity. In a document, the company’s legal team pointed out that someone had voluntarily dissolved Android Data Corp. in May 2004 (though later reactivated it) and failed to re-register the firm’s Web site URL at one point. The PTO rejected Google’s appeal, along with subsequent attempts, and suspended Google’s trademark application last November.

Apparently Sprecht thought Android was an actual phone and not software – when he realized this they filed the lawsuit immediately.  And while Sprecht’s trademark is for Android Data, the application identifies “Data” as a descriptive word meaning that for all intents and purposes they have a TM for “Android” itself. Furthermore, both trademarks (Sprecht’s and Google’s) were filed in Class 009 which covers computer software.

According to Forbes, Android Data Corp. will be seeking a preliminary injunction that asks all Google Android related products be removed from the market and be repackaged with a different name. This could be a DEVASTATING blow to all associated with Android and you can count on Google appealing this injunction. But will Google win?

First of all, money talks. I guarantee you Google will be approaching Sprecht with a lot of money which will be hard for their small software company to turn away. But knowing how much damage he could do by ordering all products off the shelves, how much money will Sprecht demand? His lawsuit is for $100 million AND removal of the Android name. Even worse, Google isn’t the only one on this lawsuit but every single member of the OHA. How will this be handled? You can guarantee that Google WILL NOT allow the Android name to be wiped away as it would totally crush the morale of the OHA members.

I think the two parties will settle out of court but according to Sprecht’s lawyers that could include the following statement coming at every mention of Android:

“Android is a registered trademark of Erich Specht/Android Data Corp.”

Not likely, but then again, Android Data Corp has a ton of bargaining power.

However, in Google’s rebuttal in the initial Trademark appeal they say that the “Android Data” trademark hadn’t been used for more than three years, the company had been dissolved for more than four years and as a result, nobody was going to confuse the two names. In what capacity the Android Data name is currently being used will be of supreme importance… if it was revived for the pure purpose of litigating then Google might have a case here.

But you can be sure that neither group wants to go to court so I would assume it will come to a settlement. As TechCrunch points out, Apple faced a similar situation when Cisco sued them for the iPhone name and they settled out of court. But in this case we’ve got a David vs. Goliath rather than Goliath vs. Goliath.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out but I highly doubt you’ll see “phandroid” becoming “phsomethingelse” anytime soon. Worry not.

[Via Forbes]

Rob Jackson
I'm an Android and Tech lover, but first and foremost I consider myself a creative thinker and entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for ideas of all sizes. I'm a sports lover who cheers for the Orange (College), Ravens (NFL), (Orioles), and Yankees (long story). I live in Baltimore and wear it on my sleeve, with an Under Armour logo. I also love traveling... where do you want to go?

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  1. I like how companies don’t bring this to the light until a company thats supposedly stealing something waits until its worth a few million dollars.

    I’m sure they have seen Google using Android for the past couple years.

  2. Google shall dominate without question.

    People are too greedy for their own good.

  3. I’m sure that they started their company again just to be able to sue Google- which is pointless- it’s fucking Google!

  4. Google should counter sue for wrongful prosecution. Greedy Parasitic MO-FOs. How do they sleep at night?

  5. Wow. So this Eric guy was probably like , “Wow, look Google’s Android is starting to get momentum, let’s sue them for using Android as there software name for the past year (and a half?). This might get my little company out in the open.” Seriously, why are people so greedy as to sue GOOGLE for using a name that you would think shouldn’t even be a problem. Well, I would wish GOOGLE good luck but I don’t think they have much against them, although if they lose this could be a problem for Android.

  6. If this guy wins, he is the biggest douche in the universe. Well…behind John Edwards.
    This is really stupid. >:(

  7. Google using a name for a product before to have its trademark registered is just pathetic… They were basically asking for that.

  8. These greedy bastards should be counter sued for everything they have, they should be thrown in prison for life, and when they die they should burn in hell for all eternity.

    Another greedy bastard trying to get rich off of nothing.

  9. If this Eric guy’s case was really truly valid half the products out there would never make it to market. His product will NEVER be mistaken for Android phones – that’s the case that the trademark appeal will hear.

    If you think someone can grab a name like “Android” and use all instances of it, think again. Trademark law does NOT work that way. Either Google will pay off this douche to go away, or he *WILL* lose in court or get a court appointed settlement/mediated settlement to be paid off.

    Any of you have Trademark use experience assuming Google screwed up?? I’m telling you this from experience on this…

  10. This is just stupid.
    Obviously, they’re only now starting the company up to open a litigation against Google.
    If not, then they would happily let Google use their name. If people were to associate Android with Android Data, then Android Data would gain popularity, or a good reputation. It’s so obvious that they’re only filing suit to make money. I can’t believe it’s gotten this far anyways.

  11. Of course, since Google knew of the existing trademark, and they continued to employ the trademark registered to another party, in patent law we call that “willful infringment.” That company, under the law is entitled to treble damages. Courts really don’t like willful infringment which is put into the same category as bad faith. Why are we sympathizing with a big company, Google, which assumed they could railroad a smaller one?

  12. If Google applied for and was refused the trademark you would think they would have been smart enough to change the name or purchase the trademark BEFORE investing millions in their Android (hemoroid) software. But apple phones, be happy.

  13. Coca-Cola spent lots of cash (less than $100m) to find the perfect name for their bottled water BEFORE releasing it to the public. It is called Dasani – which means nothing in any language in the world when directly translated.
    I think Google may need some proactive damage control like this. It’s not hard to make up a word that has no meaning :P

  14. The guy should understand that name “android” is not a great deal for google. Even if google changes the name for their “android” platform to some “crap crappy” still it will rock. Nobody could stop it from succeding. It is a open source project and it is going to get better. Rather that guy should donate the name for a great open source project and gain fame (not the otherwise).

  15. Can’t deny the obvious really, The guy had a Trademark on a phrase that Google themselves applied for and was denied. A “period of time”, be it the first or last day of a renewal period is still what it is.

    You can pour sugar on shit, but it’s still shit. Google will give him enough money to feed his dumb ass family for the next 500 years and HOPEFULLY in the end we get to keep Android.

  16. I say we should mass hate mail android data, try to get them to drop the lawsuit

    1f you wish to do so
    [email protected]

    flood their mail system.

    oh ya, here’s the website

  17. The government PTO rejected Google’s application for the Android trademark TWICE. Google obviously knew it was infringed before they released Android. Instead of changing it, they decided to give it to their lawyers. Now they’re stuck with a crappy law suit. Even Google makes the occasional costly mistake.

  18. dumb US government, patented every single words in the dictionary.

  19. Interesting article. Could you please fix the spelling of the Android Data guy’s name? I can’t tell if he’s Sprecht, Specht, or Sprech.

  20. So it’s iffy who’s got the stronger case. But $100 million in “damages”? What were Erich’s Gross earnings for the last five years his company was active? Was he suddenly going to start pulling 8 figures from his ecommerce software this year?

  21. “g max wrote on May 3, 2009 I say we should mass hate mail android data, try to get them to drop the lawsuit
    1f you wish to do so [email protected] flood their mail system. oh ya, here’s the website

    that’s called a felony, which can cause a denial of service attack, punishable by imprisonment. not to mention, it is harassment and cyberstalking.

  22. With any luck, Google will pay him off and then, a few years down the line, someone will put a bullet in the greedy little tossers head.

    May sound extreme, but people like him are costing us all huge amounts in money and lives in superfluous court cases.

  23. I’m reading everyone’s comments about Eric trying to “capitalize” on his rightful ownership via TM and I am disgusted by the ignorance. I have been a strategic business consultant of Fortune 100 to small start-ups for 20 years. Google is an 800 pound gorilla whose market position and financial backing lead to the destruction of smaller companies daily. What people are failing to get here is these larger companies… the Googles, MicroSofts, etc are required to do due diligence prior to launching a new line – they KNOW this. Eric isn’t going to get 100 million, but he should and probably will get something because Google’s lawyers did NOT do THEIR job properly. They knowingly took something that did not belong hoping they could get away with it. Like most people I am annoyed with frivolous law suits, but I am all for the little guys persevering when they are justifiably in the right – and Eric is absolutely in the right!

  24. The premise of free and open software is one of freedom – free of liability, third party royalty issues and so on.

    What we are missing is that to “allow” Google to step on Mr. Sprecht’s trademark is endorsing theft merely because Google has already used it and released it under an OSS license.

    So, Mr. Sprecht should just allow Google to take his asset since Google already gave it away? If Google took money from your bank and gave it away, should you just endorse their generosity on your behalf, or recognize the theft for what it is?

    Google stole intellectual property and relicensed it.

    The entire purpose of OSS is to set terms for the free use of contributions, specifically where the copyright owner permits such release.

    Google violated established and documented rights, and an individual operating a commercial business with an intention to protect his business assets is looked at as the bad guy.

    What about when the Free Software Foundation sues commercial vendors who accidentally release GPL licensed content under their own license? Why is it different when FSF does it?

    In the end, what we defend is freedom, liberty – not theft. Google stole someone’s intellectual property. They knew it belonged to someone else, but used their force to “take” what is not theirs.

    Why did Mr. Sprecht not respond sooner? It is complicated to convince a law firm to sue Google. They knowingly took his business asset, and now they will use a large budget to defend it.

    It is a shame that Google does not step forward, apologize for taking someone’s property, and attempting to justify it. The difficulty here is that it is not Mr. Sprecht stealing from Google, where his disadvantage is size, so he clearly would be taking a risk to do so. Google stole the name because they knew that they could resolve this using legal and financial influence, thereby justifying the theft of intellectual property.

    We should all realize that this is NOT how a community acts. OSS is all about defining work contributed by the copyright owner for use and redistribution, without liability, with access to source and so on. The license does not say that the FOSS community can extort code, documentation, trademarked assets from private commercial companies and release them to the world.

    FOSS is a business, backed by large enterprises for financial benefit. To allow the theft of property from a commercial vendor for the benefit of an OSS project is really saying that the larger vendor should be allowed to operate under different rules than the smaller vendors which clearly don’t have the financial capability to compete that way.

  25. Two things:

    First of all, the quoted material in the article says “Specht” repeatedly, yet the author keeps saying “Sprecht.” That drives me nuts.

    Second, what if this was you? You’re telling me that if you owned a business for years and then someone else started using the name, that you wouldn’t be upset? What if I just started using “Google” as my business name? You can be sure they would be on me pretty quickly.

  26. First off, I’m a HUGE fan of Google.
    Now that that much is clear, Google did something wrong. They need to take responsibility for their actions.

    I thought “Android” was a dumb name, anyway, from day one.
    Don’t give the greedy moron anything, and just change your name.

  27. next time google would think twice about using somebody’s name without researching.

  28. Android, Inc was started in 2003 in California which was covertly developing software and infringing on Specht’s mark. Then in 2005 they sold out to Google and went to work for Google and continued developing that software for Google. So in my opinion this goes back a lot longer than last year. Google has a history of this practice. Do a search on Gmail. They infringed on German businessman Daniel Giersch’s mark and lost. Same goes for Microsoft and “Internet Explorer”. That cost MS $5 M.

  29. Which will cost Google less? Paying off Specht’s company VS. Changing the product name + all of the marketing information (Print/Commercials/web/etc.) + any existing legal documents (licensing agreements and contracts) + any required Software/Firmware updates + anything else that I may have missed!

    I say just give all his employees a Nexus One and call it a day!…(oops Google has trademark problem there too!) :-(

  30. they should have…..googled the name!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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